British Airways Struggles with IT, Again.

IT – you can’t live with it, and you can’t live without it. There’s a constant feeling with technology and modern conveniences, that maybe the simple life before all the gadgets was a little better. That’s probably the feeling at British Airways this week, after another major crash of its entire IT system left passengers grounded at Heathrow and Gatwick airports. The airline has faced a host of problems and this is just another IT related setback for the firm.

The year has not been a good one for British Airways. After five previous IT shutdowns this year, the company has just now had its most severe IT related shut down of the year. Flights today were cancelled throughout the world, and the airline has said that it will likely take several days to get the systems back up and the backlog cleared. There had been some serious concern that the outage was due to the most recent ransomware attack (nicknamed ‘WannaCry’), but after these suggestions were made, British Airways revealed that there had been no hacking on the system. A BA representative was quoted as saying, “We’ve found no evidence that it’s a cyber-attack.”

Thousands of would be passengers missed flights and were stranded in varying locations throughout the world. The scene at the London airports was chaotic at best. Queues for checking in had become ridiculous, and because of the IT shut down, BA employees had been forced to start using whiteboards with markers to try and communicate with the massive crowds. As the crowds continued to build, the airline was forced to cancel all flights for Saturday. Finally after noon, a spokesman for the beleaguered airline said,  “We have experienced a major IT system failure that is causing very severe disruption to our flight operations worldwide. The terminals at Heathrow and Gatwick have become extremely congested and we have cancelled all flights from Heathrow and Gatwick before 6pm UK time today, so please do not come to the airports.”

Some had suggested that the decision last year by the airline to outsource all the IT to India was to blame. The GMB union said that this was the cause of the outage again. However, British Airways has denied that this is the cause of the problem. Mick Rix, the head of the GMB aviation sector said, “This could have all been avoided. BA in 2016 made hundreds of dedicated and loyal IT staff redundant and outsourced the work to India.” Whether this stands true or not, the IT department will certainly be under some pressure.

This recent failure highlights the realities that companies are facing in the digital age. When systems are fully IT dependent for functionality, shutdowns can destroy an entire system and bring whole businesses to a grinding halt. While it’s true that this failure is a major one, it may also indicate the substantial need for careful attention to IT controls and security in the business world. When you can’t live without IT, you have to find a way to live with it properly.

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Jon Buck
Jon Buck
Jon Buck is based in Delhi, India. He enjoys researching, analyzing, and commenting on the cutting edge of the technology world, as well as palak paneer with veg fried rice.

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